October- Week 2

October 10, 2012


Sister Elizabeth, I am sure

Your telling me the truth like the real lyrics

To dead Duane Allman’s song “Sweet Melissa”

Was most well intentioned.

But I want you to know how deeply it has changed

My feelings back here at the ranch.

I still get up at three in the morning most winter days

To be sure that the water troughs ain’t iced over

And the cows and yearlings have enough fresh hay to make it

Through the raspy days

And when the sky shades into the blue of my dead wife’s eyes

I can still see the peaks of the Cascades some hundred miles or so to the west

Capped with snow and concealing

Old Ben Ingalls lost ledge of gold.

I would lie there whole in the hot July night

Next to my lost wife in the year before my oldest boy was born

Listening to poor dead Duane’s slide guitar

Convinced he was singing of finding the dead man’s gold

And now with your fancy internet and irresistible force for truth

You proved to me that he was singing about the cross roads concealing the dead man’s ghost.

Do live men have ghosts?

I’ve talked to old Ben Ingalls ghost in my dreams

His blue woolen uniform gold oak leaf on his shoulder strap

And he showed me the three small lakes

And the angle of the ledge of solid gold

Wrapped in the alpine firs and western hemlock

In the canyon up in that Cascade valley

More than once as I slept

He tells me I have been chosen to claim the yellow dream of easy living

And spread its goodness around my world.

But sister you know as well as I, having chased dreams of your own

That the cutting and the roping and binding the calf ends the race

And the race is what we live for.

That song gallops around and around in my head

As I load steers to the stockyards

And trot through my chores each day

Some day I’m going to climb that mountain

Old Ben Ingalls by my side

And I’m going to find our ledge of gold

Before Ben and I posse up and we ain’t gonna let the crossroads hide us

We’ll find some other young buck to haunt

But we ain’t going to tell him the real lyrics

To our song.

He can hear what he needs to hear.

Tyson West is a is a traditional western poet whose aesthetic continually shape shifts. He watches the Northwest with veiled and hooded lynx eyes, broods among the conifers and quarrels with Coyote. He has a degree in history, but writes a variety of poetry styles, and has written a series of poems around Spokane Garry who is our local magical Indian. One of Tyson’s Western poems was published in Spoke Magazine called “Floorshow”, which is based on a picture of a 1922 floorshow in the Davenport Hotel which photo you can find on line. He lives in the middle of Eastern Washington, which is definitely cowboy country. There are two Washingtons, Eastern and Western, and they are as different as a Mocah Mint Latte with organic goats milk and black boiled coffee at a chuck wagon fire.


The Guardian

It was a lonely hilltop
where the prairie grasses played,
tossed by the winds of summer
and barren of any shade.

From that grand promontory
one could see a distant home
rising from the prairie sod
and the land where cattle roam.

To the west the land stretched on…
waves of grass, a moving sea,
splashing on a sandy shore
too distant for man to see.

The river, off to the south,
shrunken from the springtime flood
with waters now running blue,
and no longer filled with mud.

But that view was overcome
by a mound of new-turned soil
and a wee fist of daisies
that marked a poor digger’s toil.

Guarding that lonely hilltop
a small home-made cross now stands,
marking one more sacrifice
to hardship on prairie lands.

The sod home seemed empty then
but the rancher toiled on
glancing very frequently
t’ward the place his love’d gone.

From: Sun, Sand & Soapweed, ©2005

Clark Crouch is a self-proclaimed Poet Lariat and a prize-winning western and cowboy poet, author, lyricist, and performing artist. He admits to a bias toward traditional cowboy poetic forms. The author of eight books poetry, six of which are devoted to western and cowboy verse, he is a two-time winner of the prestigious Will Rogers Medallion Award for Cowboy Poetry and a five-time finalist in the annual Western Music Associations book award competitions. He wrote his first prize-winning poem at age eleven but never got around to writing more until 2001 when he was 73. Shortly thereafter he started writing and performing professionally.

*The Guardian*
/This poem was one of twenty “living documents” selected by a Fifth Grade Teacher in Page, Arizona to help her students understand the Westward Movement in the U.S.  She received a “best classroom practices award” for her innovative approach./

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